THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE
Ponsonby Baptist Church, 43 Jervois Road, Auckland
19/02/2013 - 23/02/2013
PONSONBY CHURCH READY TO ASK BIG QUESTIONS
The debate between science and religion will be explored as never before in Auckland this summer, when a unique production will be held at the Ponsonby Baptist Church as part of the Auckland Fringe 2013.
Taking place from February 19 to 23, the play, The Uncertainty Principle, asks the big questions of who we are and why we’re here, and according to writer and producer Mike Borgfeldt, offers plenty of surprises for believers and non-believers alike.
“I didn’t want to preach to the converted,” Borgfeldt says.
“I wanted to challenge both sides, put up the evidence for and against as best I could and see what happened.”
Even so, Borgfeldt says when he and director Luke Thornborough were first discussing possible venues, they never thought a church would have the courage to make their venue available for the work.
“We originally wanted a University lecture theatre,” Borgfeldt says.
“Auckland Uni turned us down but we still really wanted to find somewhere unique, so I asked the Ponsonby Baptist Church as kind of a Hail Mary. I couldn’t believe it when they said yes.”
The church takes pride in its philosophy of challenging the status quo.
It is led by a woman minister, Jody Kilpatrick, and described on its website as ‘a refuge for people who need to express doubts as well as certainties, and who are looking for practical ways of working out their faith’.
As for the play, Borgfeldt promises that despite the heavy themes audiences will still have lots of fun.
“The main character Jess is thrown into it all from a position of knowing nothing about science or religion, and her scepticism about both is really the heart of the play.
“Plus there’s torture, love, lust, murder, revenge – a lot like the bible, really.”
Auckland Fringe runs from 15 February to 10 March 2013. For more Auckland Fringe information go to www.aucklandfringe.co.nz
THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE takes place
19th – 23rd February, 8pm
Duration: 2 hours
Venue: Ponsonby Baptist Church, 43 Jervois Road, Ponsonby
Bold attempt lacks cohesion
Review by Norelle Scott 20th Feb 2013
A small group of us mill around outside The Baptist Church on Jervois Road, uncertain about entering the building. Once it is clear we can enter, we walk in and sit on wooden pews complete with bibles and a small welcoming pamphlet from the church. This marks the beginning of a strange mix between the evocative environment, cohesive and certain of itself, and an uncertain production.
The play opens well with Simon Clark as Doctor Walker explaining complex ideas such as The Big Bang Theory with clarity and conviction. Clark’s grounded performance in this role lends credibility and focus to the first act. Less audible are theories and experiments expounded by Lucy Smith’s Carol.
The character of Jess, played enthusiastically by Katie Carey, is an underachieving student who has attended none of Doctor Walker’s lectures and sees her need to have sex as a learning disability (one of the better lines in the play).
Doctor Walker ‘meets his maker’ prematurely but not before he gives Jess a small hand-held device that enables direct communication with God (or so he says). She seduces Christian student Luke, sending him into a cycle of punishing himself and others.
The second act includes a farcical level of characters looking for other characters. The stronger figures of act one are now dead or unhinged.
The play attempts to address big ideas – which, at times, are conveyed by ostentatious and thinly motivated dialogue – while presenting a plot that strains credibility. It attempts to grapple with the ‘big questions’ of existence, bringing together science and religion. While at times it almost makes it, ultimately it fails to make successful or significant connections between the two.
The plot suffers from logic flaws and spirals into contrivance. There is also the question of tone. In the writer’s notes the playwright talks about the “balance between respecting the Big Questions and not taking life too seriously.” And perhaps this is the point.
Maybe the play is designed for laughs – certainly scenes like Carol’s escape scene are played for laughs (and it gets them) – but this inconsistency in tone also undermines the production.
Jeremy Brett delivers a very convincing performance as Luke. Articulate, engaging and generous on stage, his performance stands out. In the second half, the changes in Luke’s character make maintaining this authenticity challenging and it’s to his credit he manages this to the extent he does.
Socrates Fernandes’ rich voice and physical presence identify him as a promising performer. The use of lighting (Anton Reinauer) creates strong dramatic spaces and evocative visual moments in the play, particularly when utilising the altar area of the church.
The play ends inconclusively and without a sense of finality. I leave the theatre /church uncertain as to the play’s final message. Is this the intention, that the audience become uncertain and in this way experienced the ‘uncertainty principle’?
Overall The Uncertainty Principle is a bold attempt at a difficult concept that at times tinkers on the brink of insight but finally doesn’t prove to be cohesive.
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